SINGAPORE – Want to send your dog to enrichment class?
Pet-related services raise the stakes for pawrents who want to give their children the best of life amid rising pet ownership in Singapore: active dog licenses here went from 70,000 in 2019 to 72,000 in 2020, for example.
Luxury cruises like the Royal Albatross have even introduced dog cruises, which cost over $200 per head for owners and between $30 and $100 per dog, depending on their size.
Alongside their owners, dogs can enjoy a three-course meal including an Atlantic salmon tartar entrée; a choice of chicken, beef or duck for the main course; and organic fruit ice cream for dessert.
However, not everyone believes that pets need expensive care to be happy. Ms Jessica Tay, 18, has a four-year-old ragdoll cat, Sojirou, and although her family spends on top-quality cat food and grooming, they don’t spend on extra services.
“I don’t think you need to be pampered – just take good care of and love your pet,” says Ms Tay, who is waiting to start university.
On the other hand, engineer Charles William, 36, estimates he spends more than $400 a month on his dog Groot, including sending the mixed-breed Maltipoo and Pomeranian for enrichment lessons.
“Investing in the maintenance and enrichment of my dog benefits his cognitive and physical needs,” says Mr. William.
For those who have the means and the desire to take care of their pet, here are three services that take pet sitting up a notch.
Send your dogs to school
In Ms. Joy Chia’s music class, students know how to hit their tambourines and jingles at the right time.
They are also dogs.
Ms Chia, 41, runs the Pawsible Enrichment School, where owners send their dogs to lessons from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There they learn to count, play music and make art.
“My interest has always been to research how dogs can be better integrated into society,” she says.
She received formal training from Karen Pryor Academy, earning a certificate in dog training in 2013.
The mother of three runs the school with her husband, although most of the training is provided by her. She has a shih tzu named Pica.
Each class, made up of 25 to 30 dogs, follows a unique lesson plan that adapts to the pace of the dogs. Sessions cost between $70 and $100 each.
More than a decade after the school opened, Ms Chia has created a program that “teaches dogs to understand us better” and is always looking for ways to improve her lessons. She gives enrichment lessons to more than 100 dogs per month.
Dogs learn “basic manners” during their first two years of schooling, which includes socializing with other pets, before moving on to “creative training”, which ranges from understanding dialect to making cards for their owners for occasions such as Chinese New Year and Mother’s Day. .
“I love music, so I taught the dogs to play different instruments, and it was really fun because some of the families I know play tambourines or jingle with their furkids,” says Ms Chia.
She believes that the biggest difference between simple dog training and enrichment is that enrichment focuses on the holistic development of the dog, in terms of physical, emotional and mental well-being.
She argues that dogs are capable of more than we give them credit for. “I believe dogs can smell more than us. I don’t mean sniff, I mean smell.”
For example, one of the school dogs, D, is able to sense the arrival of his owner in a car minutes before he shows up.
“When D starts pacing, I’ll get a text from dad saying he’s three minutes away. It got so consistent that I said to dad, ‘You don’t need me anymore. say more, because D will be.'”